Film / Black Rain

Like Sylvester Stallone in Cobra Michael Douglas is trying way too hard to look cool in this movie.

Black Rain is a 1989 American action-thriller film starring Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, Ken Takakura, Kate Capshaw and Yusaku Matsuda. The film was directed by Ridley Scott.

Detective Nick Conklin didn't need any more complications in his life. His ex-wife, the alimony payments, the rest of his bills, his kids, the occasional motorcycle street race and the Internal Affairs department investigating him for corruption were more than enough to keep him busy. But things really got interesting one day when he was eating lunch with his partner Charlie, and they happen to look over and see a known Mafia capo eating lunch and doing business with some Japanese gentlemen. Then a second group of Japanese men come into the restaurant, kill that first group, then flee. Nick and Charlie go after them, and after a tough chase that nearly costs Nick his life, they manage to bring the leader in.

It turns out the guy they caught is called Sato, and he's a notorious member of the Yakuza who is at the top of the wanted lists back in Japan. To get Nick out of the way of the IA investigation, and let him clear his head, their captain has Nick and Charlie escort Sato back to Osaka. Before they're even off the plane, they are met by a couple of detectives who take Sato off their hands. Looks like it's time to relax and take it easy on a nice little vacation... and then about a minute later the real detectives show up looking for Sato. Turns out those other guys were Sato's men.


Desperate not to give further fuel to IA, (and maybe to just do something right) Nick insists on staying in Japan to assist the Japanese police catch Sato. (Not that most of the local cops want anything to do with the pair of them). Older detective Masahiro Masamoto becomes their guide as they get drawn deeper and deeper into the Yakuza's underworld, an underworld which is on the brink of a major confrontation...

The film was nominated for Oscars in Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing. Trailer.

Compare with The Yakuza, a Sydney Pollack film with a similar plot but a different take on themes.

Not to be confused with the Masuji Ibuse novel of the same name, or the various documentaries about the end of WWII with similar titles.

Tropes associated with this work:

  • Badass Biker: Nick himself is one, and Sato just happens to lead a gang of them.
  • Big Bad: Sato.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Mas.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Motorcycle racing shows up again at the end.
  • Counterfeit Cash: The basis of the Yakuza plan, counterfeit American money.
  • Cowboy Cop: Nick. Heavily deconstructed: Nick gets a lot of flak from both American and Japanese cops for his methods, has an IA investigation ongoing, and outright steals money. He's wavering between Chaotic Good and Chaotic Neutral for most of the movie.
  • Culture Clash: You better believe it.
  • Dirty Cop: Nick really is stealing money.
  • Disappointed In You: Masashiro's understated response to Nick admitting that he stole money, which Charlie didn't know about.
    Masashiro: "You shame him. And me. And yourself."
    Nick: [long pause] I know.
  • The Don: Sugai.
  • Eagleland: Apparently the Japanese believe in this stereotype, and it shows in their scorn towards the protagonists. Nick, for his part, is not exactly diplomatic, since he feels that Sato is "my collar, my case".
  • Enemy Mine: Nick and Sugai make a deal in order to take down Sato.
  • The '80s: Exaggerated. As the custom of The '80s dictated, it ran solely on the Rule of Cool: tough cops which try too hard to be tough, fear of Japan's power, badassitude, bomber jackets, gritty postindustrial landscape alternating with neon-infested cities, gunslinging, ridiculously violent gangsterism, hot nightclub girls in Stripperiffic dresses, and Paul Verhoeven of RoboCop (1987) and Basic Instinct fame had been originally chosen to direct it.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The traditional yakuza despise Sato's methods and attitude, leading to the Enemy Mine above.
    • Subverted when Sato points out that his yakuza boss had no problem with his methods when Sato still worked for him.
  • Fish out of Water
  • Funny Foreigners: The American cops are this to the Japanese. In particular, a couple of girls in a nightclub are very amused by Nick and Charlie getting tricked by Sato's men.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Nick's style of fighting.
  • The Heart: Charlie.
  • Identical-Looking Asians: When trying to identify the fake cops:
    Nick: Unbelievable, identical strangers.
  • If You Die, I Call Your Stuff / Could Say It But: After Charlie gets killed, Masahiro hands Nick his personal effects. Which includes Charlie's confiscated firearm.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Subverted. At the end of the final fight Nick is clearly considering doing this to Sato, and Sato's look seems to indicate that he expects Nick to do so. However, the scene cut shows Nick bringing Sato into the police precinct.
    • Ridley Scott shot an alternative ending where Sato is impaled on a spike.
  • Internal Affairs: They've been busting Nick's friends, and now they're hot on his trail too.
  • It's Personal: After Charlie is murdered by Sato, Nick will do anything to bring Sato down.
  • Life of the Party: Charlie.
  • The Mafia: Very brief appearance in the beginning of the film, making a deal with some yakuza.
  • Mighty Whitey: Although Nick comes off as uncouth, completely out of his depth in Japan and so on, he takes down Sato virtually singlehanded, while all Japanese cops except Mas come off as useless, Obstructive Bureaucrats who haven't been able to do anything useful the whole time. (Or even before the movie started, for that matter).
  • Mob War: The tensions between Sato and Sugai's factions are simmering and just waiting to erupt.
  • Morality Pet: Criticising Nick directly doesn't get through to him. Pointing out that his stealing money shames Charlie does.
  • Motive Rant: Sugai gives a calm but anger filled one about why he despises America and is Yakuza.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nick and Charlie think they're delivering a notorious criminal into custody, but they're actually playing right into his plans and he ends up going free. The rest of the movie is spent trying to fix this.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Nick shows some xenophobia, but he eventually gets better.
  • Not So Different: Nick and Sato both get into trouble with their superiors for not following the rules, both are fond of bikes, both have moments of instability.
  • Off with His Head!: How Sato kills Charlie.
  • Police Are Useless
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Nick. It appears he has some strong xenophobic feelings about Japanese people, or maybe even Asian people in general.
  • Recut: There are rumors of a director's cut that adds on about half an hour to the movie.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Charlie is the Blue to Nick's Red, while Masahiro is even more on the Blue side.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Charlie
  • Sinister Shades: Sato and most of his gang wear these.
  • The Starscream: Sato was Sugai's lieutenant before starting a war with him for his own territory.
  • Sword Drag: Sato right before he kills Charlie
  • Tactful Translation: Charlie tries to soften Nick's words on occasion.
  • Title Drop: Sugai does this during his Motive Rant.
    Sugai: I was 10 when the B-29 came. My family lived underground for three days. We when came up the city was gone. Then the heat brought rain. Black Rain.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Nick. He is xenophobic, violent, semi-alcoholic and he has also illegally stolen some drug money but we see him trying to do the right thing throughout the film and he has his better moments too.
  • With This Herring: Nick and Charlie's guns are confiscated when they arrive in Japan. They then proceed to take on the Japanese underworld.
  • Yakuza
  • Yubitsume: The villain does it, remarkably. It also has some plot relevance, as the fresh injury bothers Sato in his last fight with Nick.